Updated: Mar 24
No matter how big or small we may feel, we can create the change that results in our freedom to express our radiant selves regardless of our race, identity or sexual orientation. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Change requires struggle. Therefore, so does freedom regardless of how we define it. Freedom lets us embrace our voices, but also brings the fear of judgement when we think our ways of feeling and communicating contradicts societal norms.
Struggle is a meaningful reality for us all. It’s something we go through to pursue our ambitions and become the image of ourselves that we’ve always strived to be. Struggling means making sacrifices and withstanding tough times. It’s what some have to go through to attain the justice we deserve. The continued struggle is to ensure the freedom of others so that we can create more peace, love, and positivity into humankind.
We should all have the equal opportunity to feel free, respected, and loved in this imperfect world. Our different perspectives about different matters, like our feelings towards moving past the idea of one’s sexuality to accept same-sex marriage, shouldn’t be prevented by the viewpoints of those (like our ancestors) who not only come from less progressive backgrounds and older generations, but also don’t support our advocacies towards creating environments that boost inclusion and diversity. Whether it is about the context of you being conflicted about the decision to or to not wear the hijab or you feel out of place with the sex you’re assigned at birth with, social conformities overall are no more than a social construct. We are who we choose to be. Love is love while our identities and our emotions are our own.
The context we have grown up in differs from generation to generation. From home to home. What gives us the power to prevent someone else from defining themselves? Why should we take away somebody else’s sense of identity due to perceptions of our own?
The Black Lives Matter movement spread awareness about black people being murdered, stereotyped, and falsely accused of crimes. They focused on racial discrimination as well as the negative image historically attributed to black people. However, many people perceived the movement as a way to compare black people to white people in terms of who matters the most. People tried to overpower the movement using the All Lives Matter movement. This misses the point. We need to emphasize the struggles of the Black Community not because we think all white people should be dead, but because we want to identify and push back the injustices which happen to be carried out by those, such as the white policemen who are protected under the nature of supremacy but continue to apparently “accidentally” take the lives of innocent people of color. With the stigma surrounding our ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we (as a general society) have now been pointing more fingers than ever at the Asian-Americans who have served as a backbone of our societal progression for many generations from a social, political and economic standpoint. I’ve witnessed neighbors inflict hate speeches and hate crimes both in person and through social media, targeting the same local Chinese store owners who would give them and their families the privilege to buy groceries at a great discount just because of the kindness of the heart from a neighborly perspective. By being told to go back to China (which Trump labels as the sole reason behind why nations worldwide now have to wear masks and be fearful of losing loved ones all the time), these Asian Americans are being unjustly personified as if they are the literal embodiment of the COVID-19 virus itself. Asian-Americans aren’t being treated like the rest of the human race, who have the privilege to validate their sufferings and emotions due to getting to identify themselves as a group of non-Asians.
About one month ago, my worst nightmare as the only daughter of two hardworking Bengali immigrants came true. Mohammed Anwar, an UberEats driver, was pronounced dead after he’d been carjacked in broad daylight. Each time I replayed the video of his body flying to be left lifeless while faced down onto the sidewalk, I saw none other than my father. It wasn’t just because he, too, was an Uber driver or because he was South-Asian. But when I heard Anwar exclaim his final three words, saying “This is my car”, was when I realized that those exact words could have also been quoted as my father's last phrase. It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard them before. A few years ago when he’d park his car in our small neighborhood, where everybody knew everyone, a small group of thieves threw rocks at his windows in the middle of the night, leaving behind nothing (including the GPS) by the time the sun had risen. It was never about the materialistic ownership of the car. It was about the blood, sweat and tears it symbolized not in regards to the long hours both my father and Anwar had worked, but in terms of the basic survival necessities that it provided my mother, brother and I. This car promised an opportunity at the expense of the sacrifices that were made by the immigrant figures within our lives. And just like Anwar, my father wouldn’t dare to not fight to keep that opportunity for their families to flourish from. Now to get back on track, this instance was only one of the many incidents that I can speak on at the moment. But the combination of both passion and stubbornness that I witnessed in Anwar is not just prevalent throughout the character of my own father, but is probably also something that I am sure has been ingrained within the immigrant men and women in your lives who you most likely call family.
Obtaining freedom can be a rocky road, but it’s worth the fight when you make your dreams yours to claim. It’s possible to reach a place where you feel welcomed and encounter morality. You need to be inspired by yourself and your surroundings. Our society is driven by resistance, which can be effective in preventing the powerful and privileged from diminishing and controlling the minority. The realization of injustice is the first step to resistance.
We should all take pride in bringing our own creativity to the table rather than defining who we are based on society’s biased labels. It’s okay to experiment with what brings us passion and satisfaction without the critical judgement of others. As I discover more about myself, I learn how to love and continue to be someone who feels strongly towards speaking her mind about issues pertaining to human rights and equality.